Social Media’s role in combatting extremism.

A recent Select Committee report has highlighted a number of issues regarding the Government’s policies on extremism.  Among them were calls for social media giants Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to take far more responsibility in tackling radicalisation and extremism on the internet.  The companies have inadvertently become a platform for Daesh’s ideology, and are consciously failing to implement the right strategy to combat it.  A large proportion of its propaganda, recruitment process and latest news are readily available to read through posts, groups, videos, photos and tweets.  Facebook and Google informed the commissioners of the report that they proactively inform law enforcement agencies about terrorist material.  On the other hand, Twitter told the commissioners it does not do this, explaining that the site ‘is public, that content is available so often it has been seen already’.

Is the report’s condemnation of social media companies enough?  Are their calls for greater transparency by publishing quarterly statistics on how much data has been taken down going to put an end to online extremism?  I believe more should and can be done to take on this growing problem, which left alone, could make the internet an even deadlier weapon.  Simply removing data and assigning small teams to monitor the situation makes very little sense when recognising that social media is the primary platform for extremist groups.  Companies with an enormous reach on the internet need to combat radicalisation and extremism with greater force.  The ease of creating a YouTube channel, a twitter account or a Facebook group in today’s world, and the fluency at which the information is duplicated and spread in a matter of seconds, paints a very threatening picture.

Resilience and faith have stood the test of time on countless occasions.  Online open movements for all faiths, ideologies in the name of love, empathy, forgiveness and freedom possess a robust and pure answer to radical ideologies.  We should be combating extremist ideology with our own extremist ideology, one of compassion and empathy towards people belonging to any faith and those belonging to none at all.

By Nihal Patel